Pelican Beach Resort
What to Expect: Location, location, location: 15-acre South Water Caye is one of the few islands directly on top of the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere. The resort’s five wooden Belizean-style cottages—on stilts, with verandas on the east and west sides to capture the trade winds—and five large lodge guest rooms are designed with lots of windows for views of the waves breaking over the massive reef.
What to Do: Snorkel, dive, kayak, or take one of the resort’s boat tours to nearby islands, other snorkeling sites, or the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. Don’t miss the guided nighttime snorkel in the protected cove off the south beach; it’s a chance to see corals (closed in daylight) open their delicate polyps. Or book a day trip to the ancient Mayan sites of Xunantunich and Cahal Pech (two-hour drive, $98) or to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the world’s first jaguar reserve (45-minute drive, $82), through the resort’s annex on the mainland.
Getting There: The resort arranges transportation by boat to and from the island for guests.
Insider Tip: Heron’s Hideaway and Kingfisher are the more private single-room cottages. If you like to see the sunrise, opt for Heron’s Hideaway, with its large east-facing over-water veranda. If you prefer sunsets, choose west-facing Kingfisher.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.